The lack of free agency thus far has prompted fans and analysts to break down everything about current NFL rosters as they stand today. The Kansas City Chiefs are no different. The Chiefs used their first round pick this past draft on wide receiver Jon Baldwin from Pittsburgh and much has been made about his potential impact on the Chiefs next season.
Alongside newly re-signed running back Jamaal Charles, the NFL leader in touchdown receptions last year in Dwayne Bowe (15), throw in a dash of Tony Moeaki and you have the ingredients for a pretty good meal. You also have most of the topics of conversation this off-season for the Chiefs offense.
It's no secret that the Chiefs offense will rely heavily on the impact that Baldwin makes as a rookie. It doesn't necessarily mean that he will put up big numbers, although that would be great for the Chiefs, it means that he is impactful enough that defenses have to account for him. That would be a welcomed change from whatever Chris Chambers was providing from the second WR spot last season. If Baldwin can show that he is good enough to be accounted for on every play, then the Chiefs offense should soar to new heights. But there seems to be someone that we are forgetting and it's not Thomas Jones.
Dexter McCluster came in last year as the offensive weapon that was going to help give the Chiefs that big-play ability. We saw a few flashes of this ability last season during the Monday night game against the Chargers and against the San Francisco 49ers at home. Although he did battle an injury early in the season, he showed promise as a player that could be crucial to the teams offense success.
McCluster isn't a player that needs to see the ball in his hands 15-20 times per game in order to be effective. He's probably most effective if he doesn't see the ball that many times. He finished the 2010 season with 21 rushing attempts and 18 receptions. That's 39 touches for a play-making weapon that was billed as a huge spark-plug for this offense when he was drafted in the top of the 2nd round out of Ole Miss last year.
On those 39 touches he amassed 280 yards, that's an average of 7.1 yards per touch. Nothing spectacular and probably not enough data to make any kind of real judgement. But he did show us on a few occasions a quickness and ability that nobody else on this team possesses. The more weapons that are put around McCluster then the more effective that he will become. Whether it's as a running back or receiver, this is a player that needs to touch the ball just 8-10 times per game to be most effective. It's probably best if he is splitting that number pretty evenly, although Coach Haley did say that he would see more time out of the backfield in 2011.
McCluster could be used in a similar way as Reggie Bush in New Orleans. Although Bush had 36 rushing attempts and 34 receptions last year for a total of 358 yards, or a 5.1 yards per touch average. Bush also had injuries to deal with during the season that limited some of his touches, but it's that same kind of role that McCluster could find with the Chiefs. The running back/wide receiver combination gives the Chiefs plenty of options to utilize his ability and skill-set without him even touching the ball.
It's not just Jamaal Charles and our running game that teams have to be worried about anymore. Bowe had a great season benefiting from a fantastic rushing offense last season, but with the addition of Baldwin and the continued emergence of Moeaki, McCluster should get plenty of opportunities to do what he does best and that's make big plays.
If the Chiefs can find a way to give McCluster 5-6 rushing attempts per game, and 3-4 receptions per game then only good things will happen for this offense. He seems to be the forgotten man as everyone is enamored with the new shiny toy in Baldwin, and for good reason, but it wasn't that long ago that McCluster was the new thing that had Chiefs fans excited about what he was going to bring to this team.
It was also a play on Monday Night football in front of the entire country that put the Chiefs on the map for the unlikely division championship last season, and that started with McCluster.